Archive for the ‘Commentz Korner’ Category

(Eraser-phobic?) Why I rarely delete comments

November 14, 2008

From an exchange between a reader and me early today in the Real Time Comments open forum, which drew an unusually large (119 and counting!) number of responses:

Anonymous@1:06 a.m.: Monitoring the forums is like baby sitting. Just look at this thread today. If only the higher ups monitored the forums more, then maybe they’d understand.

There’s a reason I require comments to be approved on my blog. Yes it discourages comments but I’d rather keep out the garbage and have a few patient, intelligent posters than a thousand idiots.

Jim Hopkins@1:39 a.m.: I realize these threads sometimes get long and kind of out of control. But I really do moderate each one, and I read every comment. I err on the side of not deleting comments because this is the only site where employees can speak freely; I don’t want to do anything to discourage that.
I’d rather have all those comments here (in this open forum), instead of the way it was before — cluttering up posts where the comments (generally) stuck to a single subject.

Please post your thoughts in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Photo of eraser: About.com chemistry]

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Commentz Korner: Would you delete this one?

October 9, 2008

[It appeared at 12:01 p.m. today on the Courier-Post site]

Updated at 4:51 p.m. ET. It appears the original comment has now been taken down. Earlier . . .

The story today in the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, N.J.: “A 14-year-old girl and a 21-year-old man were injured but are expected to recover after being shot in broad daylight Wednesday in the city’s Fairview section, according to police. The shooting occurred at about 3:20 p.m. at Alabama and Chesapeake roads just off Yorkship Square. The girl sustained a graze wound to her ear and neck. The man was shot in the leg. Both were hospitalized, but police said their injuries did not appear life-threatening.”

The comment by a reader named PleaseGFY: “Grazed her right ear? Damn. Just two or three inches to the left and there’d be one less breeder in that hellhole city. If she is 14, then she is due to deliver the first or her welfare-sucking brood soon.”

The question: Will the Courier-Post allow that comment — and the equally ugly follow-ups — to remain on its site, given Gannett’s stated commitment to all things diverse? Stay tuned!

Earlier: The Cincinnati Enquirer site still offers women that comment on how to deliver blow jobs. How customer service-y is that?!

Got a comment that made it past your editors? Write Commentz Korner from a non-work computer via gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.

Commentz Korner: How do you moderate them?

September 21, 2008

[Smell test: Would you delete Cincinnati’s comment, above?]

Readers now leave hundreds of thousands of comments on stories, forums and blogs across Gannett’s growing number of websites — a big challenge to the relatively small number of employees responsible for moderating those comments.

“I’m not sure we’re doing it right, or that we should be doing some of it at all,” one moderator at a Northeast worksite told me in an e-mail. “All of us who moderate also have more than full-time print duties, so our application of Terms of Service is pretty spotty. I’ve encountered quite a few dilemmas in judging what posts sufficiently violate the uniform Gannett TOS to warrant deletion or more serious action. Our options for handling problem posters, as it turns out, are limited by Corporate to the point of a serious disadvantage.”

Do you have full-time or part-time moderators? Or do you leave that important job to readers? Plus: Got a crazy comment that made it past your site’s filters? Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: screenshot of a comment I first flagged eight days ago, after finding it on The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s “moms” website]

What women chat about on Cincy’s ‘moms’ site

September 13, 2008
“Never have I heard a man pass on a blow job.”

PureRomance4U@12:07 a.m., commenting on another reader’s sex problems on The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s website for mothers.

Negative/positive: How you set this blog’s tone

September 12, 2008

[You yawned: My post on the Freep‘s good work drew no comments]

I was once asked to launch what amounted to a “positive news” business weekly, designed to lure advertisers and readers away from a competing independent publication in Little Rock, Ark. Craig Moon (left), now publisher of USA Today and one of Gannett’s highest-ranking executives, was my boss at the time, about 1990: Moon was publisher of The Arkansas Gazette, and he pushed the launch of the new Arkansas Inc. (He’s also one of my more high-profile critics, as last month’s USAT staff meeting made clear.)

Chock full of so-called positive stories, Arkansas Inc. failed miserably. The advertising department ginned up plenty of ads for the first issue. But the ad-sales folks quickly lost interest as readers fell off in droves. The lesson then and now: Edgy, hard-news coverage wins out over rah-rah “supportive” stories every time. Readers say they want positive news — but seldom buy or click when it’s offered.

It’s no different on this blog. I rely on thousands of employees to help me find examples of great work going on across the company. Most days, I get zilch. When I find compelling work on my own, the response is often the same. For example, I wrote last week about how the Detroit Free Press got results from its amazingly great work on shenanigans in the mayor’s office (screenshot, above). The response from readers here as I write this post: zip. Not a single comment.

Readers set this blog’s tone
I’m not complaining, so much as I’m explaining, because we’re going through another cycle of people expressing frustration that so much of what’s here is, well, negative. “I don’t come often because, frankly, I am a busy working journalist and I don’t have time or interest in reading a lot of griping,” Anonymous@8:28 p.m. said yesterday in a comment on this post. “Seems like a waste of time. . . . The blog would be better if it wasn’t blatant anti-management. Don’t get me wrong. I have my own issues with management; but, I also don’t think a ‘bitch’ site solves all that much in a company going through an industry paradigm shift.”

I’m not shirking my role; I’m ultimately responsible for everything that appears on this site. Still, the vast majority of its content is now thousands of comments from readers. And those comments often drive the content of my posts. If there were more comments that were pro-management, or neutral toward management, this blog would take on a different tone.

Corporate isn’t candid enough 
As I’ve said more than a few times in the past: There are 46,000 or so of you, and just one of me. I cannot patrol a company as big and far-flung as Gannett all on my own. I need your help. If you want a blog that relies less on what Corporate claims is “rumor mongering and sensationalism,” you will need to help me produce an alternative.

But keep this in mind: Corporate is only going to tell you so much; for the rest, journalists like me will need to ferret out the truth. CEO Craig Dubow (left) wasn’t advising you to limit your exposure to Gannett stock — as I did in December, when shares were trading at $35. (Shares closed yesterday at $17.76.) Corporate wasn’t the one telling you about the likelihood of a mass layoff; that was me, in early August — more than a week before the company acknowledged that it was cutting 1,000 jobs. And Corporate didn’t tell you about a pending reorganization of the newspaper division; that was me, here — three weeks before the company disclosed the news. And most of that came from readers of this blog.

Please post your thoughts in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Image: a screenshot from the Freep‘s website on Sept. 4]

Dept. of Screw-Ups: Comments are ‘open’ again

July 17, 2008

They should now publish immediately. Still having trouble? Please e-mail yours truly at gannettblog[at]gmail[dot-com].

Youth in Asia: How to get comments published

June 10, 2008

I recently wrote about the kinds of comments I’m likely to reject, now that I’m getting more picky about which ones to publish as traffic grows on Gannett Blog. Here, then, are some of the features in comments that are likely to make them more appealing:

  • Insight. Tell us something we don’t know. Offer what one of my favorite editors called “new” news — rather than repeating comments other readers have already posted.
  • Context. You are writing for more than 10,000 Gannett employees and other folks reading this blog in a typical month. With such a broad readership, you need to include enough details so your comment makes sense to people who don’t know your newspaper or TV station. For example, include job responsibilities when you reference someone by name. Your co-workers may know Suzie Q. Brown, but the rest of us need more information.
  • Style. You’re writing for an audience of smart, well-read, busy people. They appreciate good writing in all things — including comments. Before hitting the submit button, linger over your note a bit to make it more engaging.
  • Spell-check: It’s a lot eazier to understand you’re point when u observe conventional spelling and grammer ruules. Also, it makes your fellow readers look less stoopit!

Got a crazy comment that made it past your site’s filters? From a non-work computer, use this link to e-mail Commentz Korner. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.

[Photo: the queen of irrelevant comments, Emily Litella of Saturday Night Live, played by the late Gilda Radner. Her character’s misunderstood commentaries included “Youth in Asia” when she meant “euthanasia”]

On Web access, and ‘instant’ posting of comments

June 4, 2008

[iPhone: how I got this morning’s big story online]

Regarding my plans to get more picky about which comments to publish, a reader says: “Your acting as a gatekeeper doesn’t paint a true picture of what’s on your readers’ minds. You should allow instant posting of comments and reserve the right to remove any post that really is offensive. Besides, right now, your access to the Internet is standing in the way of the free flow of information that has been such a delicious meal over the past several weeks.”

In fact, I tried letting readers post comments themselves more than two months ago, with me weeding out any bad ones after the fact. But within a week, I found several doozies that should never have appeared. I was embarrassed, immediately took them down, and reverted to the system now in place.

As traffic grows, more readers are coming from outside editorial, so aren’t overly familiar with libel law. That’s partly why I’m getting more aggressive about patrolling comments: I don’t want to get sued.

Also, to clarify: I do have Web access on Ibiza, via my iPhone and one of AT&T’s international data plans. It’s pricey, and limited: $60 a month for a data serving equal to about 20% of my average monthly use in the states. Once I get my aircard, I’ll resume my San Francisco routine: Writing and editing posts on my laptop in the morning, then relying on my iPhone the rest of the day for upkeep. The phone pings when I get e-mail, containing the text of a comment just left by a reader. The e-mail includes links so I can publish a comment with just one mouse click; it appears a second or so later on the blog.

Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Soviet jewelry: How to get comments rejected

June 3, 2008

The good news about increased traffic here is also the — well, let’s call it the challenging news: You guys are now leaving more comments than ever. And until now, I’ve been publishing pretty much all of them — including quite a few that were on the edge. But with the increased volume, I’m gonna start getting more picky. That means your comments are more likely to get spiked if they are:

  • Libelous. Don’t accuse your publisher of, say, embezzlement — unless you send me a photo showing her stuffing cash marked “property of Gracia Martore” into her pantyhose.
  • Threatening. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature — and it’s even less nice to suggest you and another reader duke it out in a New Jersey bar. (Yes: that means you!)
  • Irrelevant I’m so, so sorry you don’t like working for Journal Register Co. But if you take a peek at the name of this blog, you’ll notice that it’s about a company called Gannett.
  • Spammy. Gannett’s efforts to take over college newspapers and grind them into dust, too, are pretty gross. But copying and pasting diatribes about that and other stuff is even grosser. (Is that a word? For that matter, is spammy a word?)

Some of you may now point to already-published comments that seem to fall into these categories. That’s cool: I’ll try to review and delete them, where appropriate. Mostly, though, I’m offering these tips to save you (and me) wasted time in the future.

Got a crazy comment that made it past your site’s filters? From a non-work computer, use this link to e-mail Commentz Korner. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the sidebar, upper right. Or leave a note in the comments section, below.

[Photo: the mistress of irrelevant comments, Emily Litella of Saturday Night Live, played so wonderfully by the late Gilda Radner]

Reader: ‘Whining’ staffers to ‘dangerous forum’

March 29, 2008

On my post seeking names for the newly uncovered executive “charity” program, a reader says: “This blog has gone from a few whining editorial employees mediated by you to a dangerous forum to twist facts fueled by you. If you’re trying to effect change at Gannett, you need to more closely monitor the comments. The value of your reporting is diminished by the quality of the comments (which appear to mostly be provided by editorial employees). But maybe the quality of your reporting is diminished by, well, the quality of your reporting. Getting people all fired up about giving money to charity is not exactly Woodward and Bernstein material. Time to find a real story and move on.”

Join the debate, in the original post.